Hot dog favorite now drawing fans in Eastern Pines
By Karen Eckert
The Daily Reflector
Monday, January 21, 2019
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is an expression that Bill Dunn and his wife, Valerie, take to heart as owners of the new Bill’s Hot Dogs franchise in Greenville.
The business is located at the intersection of Eastern Pines and Portertown roads just off N.C. 33 in a small, newly renovated shopping center called Portertown Plaza.
Bill’s Hot Dogs has been a landmark eatery in Little Washington since 1928. There are two Bill’s restaurants in Washington — the original near the waterfront and another one at Washington Square Mall — but the Eastern Pines location is the first franchise outside of the city. The small, take-out-only restaurant opened its doors in December.
Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, the Dunns have been longtime, loyal customers of Bill’s Hot Dogs. Over time, they met Jay Boyd, the owner.
“We discussed the possibility of opening another (Bill’s) location,” said Dunn, an experienced restaurateur involved with several other businesses including Greenville’s Uptown Brewery and Billy Beer Inc. in Greene County.
“Jay knew that we would honor the legacy of Bill’s Hot Dogs and keep everything status quo,” he said.
The restaurant is famous for its bright red, fried hot dogs, which are nestled on a bed of mustard, onions and chili — definitely with no ketchup — and wrapped in a steamed bun.
The chili is not your typical red-beans and ground beef type. Dunn describes the chili — which has a spicy kick to it —as a “special white chili.” The specific recipe, of course, is a trade secret.
“Our superior chili is still made daily and delivered from the original location of Bill’s,” Dunn said. “We use the same vendors (for the) buns, hot dogs, chili, mustard and onions that (they) have used for many years. It was extremely important that everything be exactly the same as the original Bill’s.”
The menu at the Bill’s Hot Dogs in Greenville is simple and straightforward and departs only slightly from the menu in Washington.
“At this time we have fries, chili cheese fries and fresh sausage dogs in addition to our hot dogs and smoked sausages,” said Dunn. “(There are) plans to expand these items to the Washington locations also. We intend to follow suit (for) any items that (they have) in Washington.”
The right location needed to be found for the Greenville business, Dunn said.
“In doing some market research we found the Eastern Pines area to be a growing area with very much the old-time feel Bill’s has always had. Turns out we have the best neighbors possible, which made this a great spot for our first location.” he said.
“Business has been awesome (so far and) we are very excited that we have been so welcomed to the Eastern Pines community, Greenville and Pitt County,” Dunn said. “The support has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated. ... We have made a lot of new friends, some who have grown up with Bill’s, and (we have introduced the restaurant) to many new faces that had only heard about Bill’s. Our employees trained for many weeks, even months, with the Washington staff in order to bring Greenville the taste and the feel of Bill’s.
“It’s been amazing to hear the stories of people who have reconnected with their youth of walking down the Washington waterfront with a Pepsi in one hand and a Bill’s hotdog in the other,” Dunn said. “We would love for all to stop by and enjoy what everyone is talking about ... and meet our super-duper manager, Caroline Boyd, and her staff.”
Brandon Jarrett grew up in Cary, attended ECU and now lives in Greenville where he works for a local dry cleaning company. He stopped by the restaurant for lunch on a recent Saturday. He had been to Bill’s in Washington once, and this was his second visit to the Eastern Pines location.
On this particular Saturday the line was long, as it often is, winding around the interior walls of the restaurant and at one point even spilling out the door. Jarrett said that the hot dogs are “something special” and “definitely worth the wait.”
“Bill’s Hot Dogs is a legend. ... You can’t help but hear about it and everyone tells you how good they are,” he said.
Jarrett observed how different regions of the country have their own special hot dogs that are community favorites.
“My dad had a buddy with a hot dog wagon up in (New) Jersey and it (was) kind of like this,” he said. “People come and they line up ... And they used to say — at least at one place — even if the Pope came into town they stayed open because the cops wanted the hot dogs.”
While the line at Bill’s Hot Dogs is long, it moves fairly quickly as most people know what they want to order.
Jarrett recommended ordering a hot dog “all the way,” which means mustard, onions and chili.
An official grand opening is planned soon, but In the meantime, no one has to wait for that event to stop by, Dunn said.
“When people heard about (Bill’s) coming to Greenville, we heard about it daily to hurry up,” he said.
Dunn said that it is just a coincidence that his first name, Bill, matches the name of the iconic restaurant. He was not around in 1928 when the first hot dog stand opened, nor is he related to that original Bill.
As co-owner of the newest Bill’s Hot Dogs, though, he said there is no “better name.”
Bill’s Hot Dogs is located at 4300 Eastern Pines Road and is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information visit www.billshotdogsnc.com or www.facebook.com/billshotdog or call 689-6987.
Karen Eckert can be reached at 329-9565 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.